To casual readers of the New York Times article, “Found Footage Offers a New Glimpse at 1906 San Francisco Earthquake” by Niraj Chokshi (April 14, 2018), the disaster may be merely an interesting story in our nation’s past. But to students of church history, particularly Pentecostal church history, the disaster evokes memories of one of the most prominent female preachers of miracles and healing in the United States. That preacher was Maria Woodworth-Etter (1844 - 1924).
During an 1890 revival meeting in Oakland, Calif, Woodworth-Etter and others predicted a tidal wave and earthquake would occur and destroy the Bay Area on April 14, 1890. People fled the area, but the prediction did not come true.
Sixteen years later, on April 18, 1906, an earthquake hit the city and left it in ruins. More than 3,000 people died in what reporter Chokshi described as “a tragic chapter in American history.” One newspaper at the time reported, “Nearly half the city is in ruins and 50,000 are homeless.”
Woodworth-Etter (formerly Maria B. Woodworth) believed the earthquake was a fulfillment of her 1890 prophecy, according to historian Wayne Warner. In his book, Maria Woodworth-Etter: For Such A Time As This, he noted “it was prudent that she not mention the fact that her 1890 prophecy also mentioned a killer tidal wave – a little of which San Francisco firemen could have used in 1906 to quell the raging fires.”
Warner has done extensive research on Woodworth-Etter, whom he called in one book, “The Woman Evangelist.” In his response to a 2009 blog post about the earthquake, Warner noted that Woodworth-Etter was 55 in January 1890 when she predicted “a tidal wave and earthquake would destroy the Bay Area.” The local newspapers featured regular reports about the prediction. Warner wrote:
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